How Do You Annotate in Your Class?


I’m teaching Introduction to Literature (with a Digital Humanities slant) in the fall, and I’m deciding on tools and approaches to use. One of my favorite activities is annotation, moving towards thinking about critical editions. But I’m at a loss now for what tool or tools to use in my classroom for this activity.

What am I looking for? A annotation tool that allows for collective and collaborative readings of a text and that can also handle multimedia, as well as linking (in theory) to other texts/contexts. The work in particular that I want to read in this way is a rich resource of intertextual references and allusions, so I want the students to be able to annotate and share them with each other, building a web (haha) of references and knowledge around the text.

First stop, for me, was the DiRT Directory, which I have written about recently. But the list provided there covers everything from textual markup, to note taking, to map annotations. The list itself is overwhelming. I probably need to learn how to use the tags a little more effectively. But towards the bottom of the list, I found a promising platform called Annotation Studio.

Annotation Studio has been developed at MIT’s HyperStudio, in collaboration with textual scholars. It was developed with non-DH specialists in mind, specifically for a classroom setting. It is collaborative, and can incorporate multimedia annotations. They have even helpfully provided a document that gives an overview of the various annotation platforms available (pdf). They have also provided simple, easy to follow instruction videos for users, which lessons the learning curve for me and for my students.

But then, through the wonders of social media, I discovered a more recent tool, developed out of Stanford, called Lacuna Stories. They have produced a really great video selling the platform, as well as a few case studies internally. I found it through developer Michael Widner’s blog posts analyzing the various pedagogical shortcomings of annotation platforms such as Genius. Being able to network various resources and sources on the platform, for me, puts it above Annotation Studio. However, because it is still a relatively new platform, it is only available for Stanford faculty.

What annotation platforms for texts do you use or recommend?

Photo “claude levi strauss – annotated” by Flickr user P KCreative Commons licensed CC-BY-2.0


Return to Top